Back to the complex visual language of graphic design.If academics spent more time scrounging in junk stores….
Art Chantry (firstname.lastname@example.org) :
I spend a lot of time digging around in bins of garbage. i love it. I love going to goodwill stores, junk stores, church rummage sales, flea markets, antique malls and even the dump (but they don’t let you dig around there anymore.) It’s the best place to research real graphic design. I find the most famous and wonderful things in those places.
The problem comes when you decide to want to find out more. For instance, I discovered the wonders of Richard M. Powers and his almost forgotten accomplishments while digging up old sci-fi paperbacks (initially, just for the covers.) I would never have known that he was the guy who changed our collective ideas about science fiction from Buck Rogers/space guns to surreal alien landscapes and swirling prismatic colors. In fact, it wasn’t until i lined up my collection to think about them that I noticed that they all had the same signature.
He was the illustrator of choice among the new wave of science fiction artists like Blish, Bradbury, Dick, Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke, etc. etc. When their book came out in paperback, it was considered a badge of honor to have the cover done up by Powers. Those old paperbacks are almost forgotten now, by seemingly everybody except the insider geek collectors. But, he almost single-handedly changed our perspective on wonderment and how it looked. and he executed literally THOUSANDS of covers.
However, when I tried to research more info about him and his fabulous career, there was almost nothing out there. He had been ignored by the “design culture”. After all, he did that tacky sci-fi stuff. Not high-brow enough (for literature) back then. I ended up learning more about his career by actually tracking him down and talking to him (then i hired him to do a record cover illustration for me. but that’s another story)
Another great artist I re-discovered in thrift stores was Reid Miles, the genius designer behind Blue Note records. Granted, he’s ultra-famous now among the hipoisie of the designer chic set. But, back in the 70′s, he was only known by jazz record collectors, virtually forgotten by the mainstream design world.
Reid Miles may not ring a bell to some of you out there, but he’s the guy who designed what contemporary jazz LOOKS like. Prior to his work on blue note, the way jazz “looked” was defined by the illustration style of David Stone Martin (whose ragged line drawings influenced a several generations of artists including everybody from Ben Shahn to the young Andy Warhol to Ed Fotheringham).
Then Reid Miles started literally “knocking out” those cool minimal, exquisitely photographed (largely by Francis Wolf), geometric abstracted covers. The style is still the dominant look of the cult of cool. It’s the official jazz “corporate graphic standard.”